Pg. 39 Edit
"The question is not what is in a name, but rather how many of them she can answer to. She thinks it is a useful thing to have an array of names, each presenting her with different possibilities."
Bella, one of the main characters in the novel, comes off as a free spirited person who goes with the flow and allows herself to drift along wherever life takes her. No matter what she is doing or who she is with, she is always Bella at her core. However, her character is unique in the sense that there are many versions of her. There is no changing a person down to his/her core, but people can put on different facades depending upon the people around them or the environment/situation in which they find themselves. Bella has a special situation in which different people who have different meaning in her life call her different versions of her name. For example, Bella's mother calls her Isabella, rolling her tongue and ephazising the syllables when she was angry or upset with Bella. The people closest to Bella, throughout her life, addressed her as BB. On a shallow level, this passage about Bella's name may seem like unimportant or extra information but in reality it creates a new level of Bella that allows for deeper connections and thoughts to be made throughout the story. The passage explains that along with each new name comes new experiences and relationships for Bella. Bella's different names for different pieces of her life is completely appropriate given the constant traveling for her jobs, relationship, and family. A large piece of Bella's personality is the fact that she is flexible. Bella's character being exactly like this makes complete sense for the fluidity of the novel. Bella is able to uproot her entire life in order to take care of Salif and Dahaba.
Pg. 47 Edit
"Marcella thought that Bella's childhood crush on her brother might make her the kind of woman men fell for and women were wary of, even hated by them. And Hurdo too worried that the intensity of Bella's feelings for her brother were such that she might never allow herself to fall in love with anyone else."
This passage about Bella gives the reader insight to Bella's effect on both men and women and her passionate and strong relationship with her brother, Aar. The author uses the character Marcella describing her ideas about Bella to explain these certain aspects of her. Bella has three lovers throughout the novel and in each of the three realtionships Bella seems to be completely in control. Bella controls the men she has relationships with and never allows the relationship to become serious or anything thst would lead to marriage or a family. The character Hurdo was completely correct when worrying that her intense relationship with her brother would hold her back when it comes to future relationships with men. It is also interesting that the passage mentions Bella's difficulty that she tends to have with some women. Throughout the novel Bella is nothing but helpful to Salif and Dahaba but Padmini and Valarie always seem to quickly judge Bella and show a lack of respect towards her. On a surface level, a reader may assume that the frustration and tension between Bella, Padmini, and Valarie is caused by the entire situation. But in reality, this passage helps express to the reader that Bella more than likely frequently has issues with women. This passage helps explain and describe why Bella, an incredibly important character in the novel, is the way she is and lives her life in the way that she does.
Pg. 84 Edit
"She remembers a Somali saying something to the effect that one’s children are not one’s parents. Which means, in effect, that we think far more often about our children than they are likely to think of us. Even if you are sick or having money problems or other troubles, she realizes, you must not expect them to respond to your needs in the way you’ve responded to theirs. You won’t be able to sleep when they are sick, and you’ll do whatever you can to alleviate their pain or allay their fears. But do not expect them to feel anyone else’s pain the same way! Until, of course, they become parents themselves and have their own children."
Bella, Salif, and Dahaba all lose a huge piece of their lives when Aar is killed. This passage explains an interesting subject that occurs throughout the novel. While Salif, Dahaba, and Bella all get through such a tragic time by having each other, Bella deals with the extra aspect of her being in the parental position and Salif and Dahaba being the children. Salif and Dahaba are not capable of taking care of Bella the way she takes care of them. Bella's character completely embodies this passage. Bella dropped her life, career, and personal relationships to take care of Salif and Dahaba. Bella is in the place of the parent and sacrifices things for Salif and Dahaba that they probably can't even fathom at their age. Ironically, while Bella exemplifies the significance of this passage, Salif and Dahaba's biological mother, Valarie, neither worries nor takes care of the children. Valarie's character contradicts the entire message of the passage. Her twisted character is responsible for abandoning a husband and two children. Salif and Dahaba's biological mother was incapable of the nurturing and mothering that Bella so quickly and immediately is able to provide Salif and Dahaba.
Pg. 203 Edit
"A proverb Hurdo often quoted, usually in reference to Bella's own behavior, returns to her: It's not the parent who chooses to favor a child, but the child who behaves in a way that compels a parent's love. In this shared moment, Bella feels that she and Salif are confederates, coconspirators, working in tandem to look after Dahaba."
The fact that this proverb reenters Bella's mind allows the reader to truly feel and expierence Bella's emotional attachment to Aar and his tragic death, Salif and Dahaba, and the situation as a whole. Later in the novel, the author writes, "There is in each of us a secret chamber whose key we offer to those we choose - a husband, a wife, a brother, a sister, a lover, or lovers known to no one but ourselves" (Farah 211). It is completely apparent throughout the enitre novel that Bella's key belongs to Aar. Aar meant more to Bella than most people could ever understand. Aar contributed greatly to the person Bella became in her life. At the beginning of the novel one may expect that this would cause Bella to possibly break down or be forever internally scarred after the tragic death of the holder of her key. However, soon after Aar's death when Bella finds herself in a mothering situation for Dahaba and Salif, one may say Bella discovers that perhaps Salif, as Aar's son, carries enough of Aar with him that Bella didn't completely lose the holder of her key after all. Dahaba has a different case than Bella when it comes to the holder of her key. Dahaba is young, dependent, and affects people in a way that makes them want to take care of her. Aar and Dahaba definitely shared a mutual soft spot. With Aar gone, Salif respects Dahaba as his sister but it is apparent that Salif now realizes that he is the closest thing Dahaba will ever have to a father figure for the rest of her life. Bella worries about Dahaba's loyalty with family secrets and things of that nature but Bella is never angered by Dahaba. Bella seeks to connect with Dahaba and to mother her and take care of her. Bella and Salif did not have to team up like they did in the novel. Salif could have easily rejected the idea of Bella moving in and becoming his new guardian. Instead, Salif respects Bella and in return Bella respects Salif and trusts him as someone she can count on to get through such a rough time together.
Pg. 211 Edit
"There is in each of us a secret chamber whose key we offer to those we choose - a husband, a wife, a brother, a sister, a lover, or lovers known to no one but ourselves. I am sure there are personal secrets that Dahaba won't divulge to anyone, and with age, she will learn to know how to treasure more secrets, keep them hidden."
A large, recurring theme in the novel is the fact that everyone is alone together. Aar's death negatively affects every major character in the story, but this tragedy brings the characters together. Salif and Dahaba lose their father and Bella loses her brother, best friend, idol, and mentor. Aar was the holder of Bella's key and he definitely at least held a piece of both Salif and Dahaba's keys. Salif and Dahaba never really had anyone besides their father because of the fact that their mother, Valarie, abandoned the family when the children were young. Bella does not allow many to get close to her throughout her lifetime and when she does get close with people, she remains certain that she controls the relationship. Valarie and Padmini, while not exactly on Bella, Salif, and Dahaba's side, are alone together with everyone else. Valarie and Padmini have to deal with hiding their true feelings for each other and their true sexual identity. Throughout the novel there are secrets each person holds dear to them and some secrets that begin escaping individual character's knowledge. The second part of this passage about Dahaba keeping secrets is interesting and shows one of the ways that the other characters view Dahaba. Dahaba is younger and less mature than everyone she is surrounded by the entire story. At first, Dahaba seems dependent and lost and this passage brings up a theme that is revelent throughout most of the novel. Dahaba is not trusted with as much information as the other characters, and while she usually wants to help and be involved sometimes she poses threat to the serious and secretive matters at hand. Over time and in subtle ways throughout the story, Dahaba begins to act more mature and more like a woman. The passage above says everyone has a key that we offer to someone we choose. Perhaps this is true, but the novel never tells us when one decides to give his/her chosen person his/her sacred key. Dahaba began the novel as a lost, young girl, wrapped up in a tragic and life altering event. But when Bella enters the picture and takes Salif and Dahaba under her wing, Dahaba begins to come out of her shell. Dahaba starts to act more mature and seek more trust and approval from Salif and Bella. One may say Dahaba had never given her key to anyone until Bella came into her life.
Pg. 339 Edit
"Bella thinks of the Somali wisdom that holds what your parents don't teach, you will be compelled to learn the hard way from an unfeeling society."
Some things that occur in our lives we never expected to happen. Some things we are never warned about or taught about. Bella, Salif, and Dahaba were never warned of the fact that Aar was going to suddenly die and they definitely weren't taught how to cope with it. The death of Aar was sudden, unexpected, and had a drastic impact on Bella, Salif, and Dahaba. Salif and Dahaba are both suddenly hit with the fact that their father is never coming back. They have lived with the fact that their mother abondoned them their entire lives, and when their mother does return she wants nothing other than money and a quick catch up with the children she never wanted in the first place. Bella, though completely willingly, really has no option other than to take on the role of mothering two children, neither of which are hers, because of the tragic death of their father and also of her brother and best friend. Throughout the novel the reader is informed about many different societies that major characters have either lived in or been a part of for a period of time. Most of the culture in the areas mentioned in the book revolves around major themes of society dissaproving of certain aspects of each character's life. The "unfeeling society" mentioned in the passage does not individually mean the society where most of the book takes place. Padmini and Valarie are good examples of the old-fashioned and disproving society theme throughout the novel. They are partners and lovers and they get in a fair deal of trouble because of this.